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KC@OAK: Moscoso throws 8 2/3 against the Royals

OAKLAND -- Guillermo Moscoso entered the 2011 campaign among the list of names the A's organization simply deemed "depth."

It was something the club lacked in previous years warped by injury, and Moscoso, at the very least, was set to lend the club a viable option on the mound should the same storyline unravel again.

It did, as a handful of Oakland's arms -- namely Dallas Braden and Brett Anderson -- were sidelined early and often. Moscoso's ensuing arrival has eased those ailments, and on Wednesday it was the right-hander who continued to write his own story.

The 27-year-old Moscoso, making just the 18th start of his career, came four outs shy of a no-hitter before surrendering a two-out base hit to Kansas City's Salvador Perez in the eighth inning. His flirtatious rendezvous with history no more, Moscoso allowed just one more on the day -- Alex Gordon's ninth-inning single -- while tossing 8 2/3 shutout innings in a 7-0 victory over the Royals.

Moscoso's efforts spanned 129 pitches -- the most by an A's pitcher since Mark Mulder threw 132 in a start against Toronto on May 2, 2001 -- before he was pulled following a two-error play by Scott Sizemore on a potential game-ending grounder.

At that point, A's manager Bob Melvin was forced to call upon righty Fautino De Los Santos, who quickly got the third out of the inning to seal the win.

"That was particularly painful for me," Melvin said. "He had only been to 109, and I couldn't stomach the fact he was going to throw 130 pitches. You think, a game like that is an easy game to manage, it was painful in that last inning. He didn't want to come out of the game, but his health is very important. It's too bad he couldn't finish it."

Instead, Moscoso and Melvin engaged in what the A's skipper deemed a playful "wrestling match," as the hurler hoped for a change of heart before handing over the ball.

"Yeah, I'd call it that," Kurt Suzuki said. "He didn't want to take him out, but at the same time, you don't want to risk losing him to injury. It was pretty funny watching that, though."

"He wouldn't give me the ball," Melvin said, laughing. "I don't blame him. I've gotten to know Mo pretty well this year, and he's a fighter, he's a tough kid. There are guys with better stuff, but I don't know if there are too many with a bigger heart, and it was difficult to take him out."

Moscoso, though relentless, understood the decision.

"I was feeling great," he said. "I was 100 percent great, but my pitch count was really high, so it is what it is."

The A's right-hander retired each of his first 17 batters faced before offering up a free pass to Alcides Escobar with two outs in the sixth. Combined with the 13 consecutive batters he set down in his last start against Seattle, it equaled 30 straight, setting an Oakland record previously shared by Dallas Braden and Catfish Hunter (29).

The numbers are telling in themselves, but their meaning proves greater when considering Moscoso's journey. The hurler is coming off an uninspiring year at Triple-A Oklahoma, where he posted a 5.18 ERA in 23 games for Texas' affiliate. Signed by the A's in January with just 11 big league appearances to his name, his role was very much undetermined, and he began the season in Sacramento before getting his first career starting nod on May 24.

"It's a credit to him and believing in himself," Melvin said. "You get sent down and, all of a sudden, if you're in the bullpen or not here, there's a lot of things that you're fighting through, and you have to keep your belief that, 'I'm a starting pitcher, I'm a big league pitcher, and that's where I'm going to end up.' He holds onto that every day."

Said Suzuki: "I faced him a little bit when he was with the Rangers out of the bullpen, and you always knew he had a good arm and threw hard and had a pretty good breaking ball. But you never knew if he'd be in the bullpen or starting, and to look at what he's done, it's surprising."

Moscoso's fastball, in particular, was his biggest helper Wednesday, though it wasn't alone in the effort.

"He was throwing four pitches and painting with all four," said Royals manager Ned Yost, whose club had posted 18 runs combined in the first two games of the series. "His fastball had a nice hop at the end, a nice curve, a nice little tight slider and a pretty darn good changeup."

"He was locating, locating, locating," Jemile Weeks said. "When he does that, he's going to be tough."

Moscoso's near no-no mirrored an outing four years ago at Damaschke Field in Oneonta, N.Y., where he twirled the second perfect game in New York-Penn League history on July 15, 2007, while playing for the short-season affiliate of the Tigers.

Against the Royals, Moscoso fanned four and relied on 15 routine flyouts, next to just three groundouts, while improving to 8-8 with a 3.36 ERA on the season. A potential no-hitter wasn't on his mind, he insists, but another goal was.

"You always want to go deep in the games," he said. "You have to make quality pitches and work hard to try to go deep in the game. They showed the last two games what they can do, but it just made me focus and make quality pitches. I just tried to finish strong, and that's what I did."

The A's meanwhile, lent him plenty of support, tagging Kansas City hurler Bruce Chen for six runs -- five earned -- in 5 1/3 innings. Leading the way was Weeks, who collected his first career four-hit day while tallying an RBI. Sizemore also posted a two-run double, and Hideki Matsui collected an RBI hit.

"Any time I can go out there and help the club win, I feel great about it," Weeks said.

Rather, in Moscoso's words, "100 percent great."

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